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Account Chief Dangles Heineken

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NEW YORK-Michael Silver, the worldwide account director on Heineken at Lowe Lintas & Partners, has talked with other agencies about job prospects, dangling the $50-60 million account as a carrot, sources said. Under one scenario, the account could shift-without a review-to D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, where former Lowe Lintas chief creative officer Lee Garfinkel is president and chief creative officer worldwide, said sources.

Silver, whom one source described as a close friend of Heineken marketing chief Steve Davis, has had a tight grip on the account since it was at Wells BDDP. As Wells was closing in 1998, Heineken launched a review-an unusual process in which Silver attended meetings between client executives and prospective agencies. And when the former Lowe & Partners\SMS won the account, Silver came with the account.

Silver did not return several calls seeking comment. On Friday, Davis dismissed talk of a shift as "rumor" and stressed that Lowe Lintas was Heineken's agency of record. As for Silver, Davis said: "You don't see a lot of account people like Michael Silver that have the passion like [he] does. He has been a great asset to us."

Still, Davis underscored that any decision related to the ad account would be "our decision. It's not going to be [Lowe Lintas CEO] Paul Hammersley or Michael Silver or 20 other guys." Davis further acknowledged that he talks to agencies all the time-"I must have had 10 conversations with agencies in [the last] two months"-but downplayed it as "part of my job."

Reached for comment, Hammersley said only: "We're in the middle of postproducing 16 commercials for Heineken USA and Heineken global for 2002, and the client is very happy with the work we've done."

A shift to D'Arcy could raise legal questions, since Garfinkel's exit deal with Lowe Lintas parent Interpublic Group carries an explicit noncompete clause that applies to clients such as Heineken. Silver also is said to have a noncompete clause in his contract that lasts one year. Garfinkel's noncompete clause ends either in 2002 or 2003, sources said.

Theoretically, however, D'Arcy can still get the account as long as Garfinkel does not work on it before his noncompete agreement runs out, one source said. Executives at D'Arcy declined comment.